What I Learned In Hair School

I’ve never been one of those people who adhere to a life plan; I’ve pretty much been winging it since birth. Spontaneity is my motto, albeit a more toned down version these days. So a few years ago, it was no surprise to anyone when I declared that I was going to hair school for the sheer heck of it. And off I went.

Anyone who has gone to hair school knows that the first two quarters are when the idiots are weeded out. This is done with classes like chemistry and mathematics. If you make it to 3rd quarter, you hit the salon floor with your tackle box ‘o combs.

Now, before I progress…let me digress. I live in the deep south. A place where Confederate Memorial Day is observed and everyone gets the day off, government jobs included. I’m a transplanted color-blind Yankee, so I was in no way prepared for the racial issues that are still alive and well down here. In the city I live in, the racial divide is mind-blowing. You stay on your side of the river and I’ll stay on mine. That’s the mentality here.

So…back to the story. It was my first day on the salon floor and my first customer was waiting for me in the waiting area (a.k.a. the maximum security holding cell). I bounce out and call the name of my first victim, waiting for a reply. Nothing. Then I noticed an elderly black woman sitting with her pocket book in her lap shaking her head slowly back and forth, saying, “Oh hell no…ain’t no white girl putting a finger up on THIS head!” The other waiting customers agreed wholeheartedly, with comments like, “I know that’s right!”

If you’ll recall, I said I’m a color-blind Yankee, completely unaware of southern protocol. So it was a bit shocking to everyone when I fell onto my knees and clasped my hands together.

“Please! C’mon…just one time let a white girl do your hair!”

A few of the other black students heard me and came to vouch for me. They assured her that I was Tootsie Pop in the middle and the white skin was nothing but a thang. My specialty was ethnic hair. I’d even spent 20 hours having micro-braids put in my hair just to prove that I could. Ms. Wright was hesitant, but since I’d been vouched for, she followed me to my chair. She relaxed when she saw that I sat with all the black girls…who kept assuring her that she was gonna be alright and there was no need to be frightened.

I must not have done a bad job, because next time she came back, she asked for me. After her third visit, she told me:

“Girl…I don’t have any money to tip you with. But I got a big mouth. And I’m gonna tell all my friends to come down to the vo-tech and see the little white girl that can do some hair.”

So for the rest of the year, I had a line of elderly black women coming to see the little white girl who could do some hair. I felt like the bearded lady behind the shower curtain. But fact of the matter was…I could flat do some ethnic hair. Braids, dreds, perms, quick-weaves, custom wigs….all of it. I was offered a job at the largest exclusively black salon here in town because I’d figured out how to color ethnic hair without damaging it.

On the last day of school, I ran by the salon to grab my stuff and there sat Ms. Wright. Apparently she’d been sitting there awhile. She’d rode the bus to come tell me thank you for doing her hair all year and that she’d miss my crazy ass. It was the last thing she said that made me cry like a chump.

“Girl, you don’t realize that what you’ve done here isn’t something we see everyday.”

After graduating (with honors), I didn’t do anymore hair. Nor have I since. I’ll work on some friend’s heads now and then…but for the most part, hair ain’t there. I just went to school for the experience of it. And here’s what I learned:

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I could make it in prison.

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  1. […] Additionally you can look at this related post: https://whimsydream.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/what-i-learned-in-hair-school/ Also you can take a look at this related read: […]

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